Transparency News, 1/18/2022


January 18, 2022

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state & local news stories


VCOG's annual
bill chart


VCOG has posted position papers on a baker's dozen of bills. There's a link to this page on our main bill chart page so you can check back for updates in the future.

Jenny Tate, a founding director of VCOG and the longtime publisher of The Coalfield Progress, died Jan. 15. Her obituary appeared in yesterday's edition of the paper.

Criminal defense attorney John Spencer says he is not representing the Spotsylvania County School Board. “I am not General Counsel for the School Board or affiliated in any way,” Spencer wrote in an email to The Free Lance–Star Saturday. The School Board on Jan. 10 approved a motion appointing Spencer—a partner in the Fredericksburg-area firm Spencer, Meyer & Koch—to provide pro bono legal representation. Spencer was appointed following a closed session that two of six board members—Battlefield representative Nicole Cole and Chancellor representative Dawn Shelley—did not certify. Salem representative Lorita Daniels was not present for the certification vote. Shelley said after voting against certification that “another person was brought into closed session ... that in my opinion goes against the closed meeting law that we stated.”
The Free Lance-Star

On Thursday night, the majority block of the Staunton City Council called a closed meeting seemingly out of the blue. When it was all said and done, they'd reportedly moved on from the city manager. Out of nowhere, Councilwoman Amy Darby said the following during city council's work session: "I would like to move to amend tonight's regular meeting agenda to add a closed session to discuss personnel issues related to the city manager and matters from the public, and I ask that the city attorney prepare a closed meeting motion necessary to go into that session." Councilwoman Brenda Mead:   Having having heard absolutely nothing previous to this moment, about this closed meeting, I will not be voting in favor of it.
News Leader

Prince William County officials are being criticized for planning two in-person listening sessions on data center proposals as coronavirus cases surge in the region. Opponents of the proposals say the county is plowing forward with in-person events despite the surge in COVID-19 cases and is forcing residents to risk their health to have their voices heard. “County residents should not feel like they must choose between contracting COVID or engaging in the public process on an issue with direct and long-lasting impacts,” the letter says. “Furthermore, holding a public meeting at a time when so many people cannot participate undermines the democratic process and public confidence.” The meetings are being held at George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus and will require masks and health screenings. “I am very concerned about having roadblocks for people’s participation,” he said. “If we don’t make this easy for people and they get there and they find out that they cannot even be admitted to the building, we are going to have a PR problem like we’ve never seen.”
Inside NoVa


editorials & columns


Sometimes, it almost seems as if our elected officials want to keep us in the dark. First, there were the latest shenanigans involving the Spotsylvania County School Board on Monday, Jan. 10, in which the board fired Superintendent Scott Baker in a closed session that seemingly violated Virginia’s open meeting requirements. The good news: No books were burned. Then the General Assembly came to Richmond. Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, is pushing a bill that would require that all FOIA requests for public records be submitted by certified mail. Obviously, this bill, should it pass, would be a deterrent for many ordinary citizens trying to get information to which they are legally entitled. It would also make things tougher for state agencies who handle FOIA requests the way most things are handled in the 21st century—digitally. Full disclosure: It would be a nuisance for news media operations as well. A cynic might think that some of the folks we’ve elected don’t really want to deal with the pesky public. Make us less cynical and amend this bill—with a shredder.
The Free Lance-Star